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Nana Is A Four Letter Word

My mother’s family had a sweet and annoying custom of endowing each relative with a sobriquet. Some were common shortened versions of the person’s name, while others were far removed from the original―Rasputin and Lazarus. I was not named after the talented Ms. Mouskouri or Zola’s cocotte. Instead, as legend has it, immediately following my birth my name was registered as Jane Annette Keeping―Jane, an obligatory nod to both sides of my family went well with Annette, and Annette because my brother liked the raven-haired Mousketeer Annette Funicello. When I arrived home from hospital my twenty-three month old sister tried to call me Annette (Jane was not offered as an alternate) and instead babbled Nana. My mother was delighted with the new name and encouraged its use, my father was too embarrassed to ever utter it. Although I thought of myself as Nana I was familiar with the name on my birth certificate and did answer to Annette if it was used by a doctor or border guard.

At age five I entered the public school system as Annette because my teachers insisted on using my Christian name. I did not mind being called Annette and even grew to like it, particularly after I became an official Mousketeer. My teachers called me Annette until I went into grade four, at which time the battle-ax with whom I was to spend my days for the next ten months insisted on calling me Jane, “Because that is your given name!” The following year I once again became Annette to the outside world and was so until in my teens I decided to only use Nana and politely endure the raised eyebrows, witless comments and other’s awkwardness when saying my name.

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